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Catch a Fire (PG-13)

Director: Phillip Noyce. With Derek Luke, Tim Robbins, Bonnie Mbuli, Jessica Anstey. (101 min.)

Philip Noyce's anti-apartheid drama is tense and thoughtful, if somewhat marred by Hollywood-style thrills. It's about the radicalization of an unmilitant family man, real-life Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke), who becomes a leader of the African National Congress after being wrongly accused of sabotage at the refinery where he works. Arrested and tortured on trumped up charges, along with his wife (Bonnie Mbuli), he becomes upon his release the very man he was falsely accused of being. As Chamusso's adversary, security police chief Nic Vos, Tim Robbins brings an eerie duplicity to the role. The script is by Shawn Slovo, who wrote the great "A World Apart" and whose father was ANC leader Joe Slovo. Grade: B+

Death of a President (R)

Director: Gabriel Range. With Hend Ayoub, Brian Boland, Jay Patterson, James Urbaniak. (90 min.)

There's something foul about staging the assassination of a sitting president in order to push a political agenda that could just as easily have been put forward without resorting to such sensationalism. British writer-director Gabriel Range's controversial movie is a staged docudrama set several years in the future that looks back to the imagined assassination of President Bush and attempts to piece together what happened. With the world in turmoil, Bush is shot in Chicago after delivering a speech to business fat cats; the Cheney administration uses the shooting as an opportunity to enact draconian domestic security measures and target innocent Muslims. Range employs digital effects to rejigger real footage of Bush and others, and he's fairly adept at action filmmaking. Grade: B–

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 11 scenes, including an assassination and war scenes. Profanity: 3 profanities. Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: 1 scene with drinking.

Still in Release
The Prestige (PG-13)

Director: Christopher Nolan. With Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson. (128 min.)

After the surprise success of "The Illusionist," "The Prestige," about dueling magicians in 19th-century England, may not seem like such a commercial long shot. I wasn't nuts about "The Illusionist" but, because I love magic on film, I was reasonably entertained. I'm also not crazy about plot-heavy "Prestige," but it has its moments, too. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale play the two rivals, Scarlett Johansson is the magician's assistant who shuttles between them, and Michael Caine, easily the best in the bunch, plays their mentor. Christopher Nolan, fresh from his pitch-black Batman, once again goes heavy on the chiaroscuro. Grade: B

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